By Mouayed Makhlouf, IFC

Look out across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and you’ll see a rising tide of youth unemployment. In fact, MENA has the highest rate of official unemployment of any region in the world, averaging at around 11 per cent.

Those are sobering numbers – and a sign that the region hasn’t done enough to create opportunities for its young people. But unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa doesn’t need to be that high.

The region has a large number of companies, many in up-and-coming industries like information technology or logistics, which need workers. Yet job seekers just don’t have the technical skills that employers are looking for, causing many positions to remain unfilled. Read more

The competitition to attract financial business in the Gulf is hotting up.

Dubai’s financial centre says it will slash telecommunications rates as it seeks to sustain growth amid increasing competition from neighbours such as Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The DIFC is set this year to roll out a technology transit zone within its data centre, offering prices that can compete with London and other western cities to ease costs for trading desks and asset managers. Read more

By Georges Elhedery of HSBC

For centuries, the Middle East provided obvious trade hubs for merchants as they travelled between the east and the west. This pattern is being repeated now, as air travel in emerging markets takes off. The focus of the airline industry is shifting eastwards and the Middle East’s prime location at the crossroads between Asia, Africa and Europe means it is once again an important gateway for travel.

The rapid economic growth of emerging markets such as China has led to an increase in wealth and created a growing middle class that is keen to see the world. Since 2007 air travel in emerging markets has risen by 55 per cent*, and this trend is expected to continue. Read more

Dubai may be celebrating getting the 2020 World Expo, but is it a poisoned chalice?

After the crash of 2008 and subsequent sovereign debt crisis, surely the Expo is a welcome boost? As Simeon Kerr reports for the FT, “Dubai’s commercial sector anticipates it will give an estimated €28.8bn economic boost and create some 277,000 jobs.” What’s not to like?

Well, some analysts are not quite so positive. Read more

We want one in China

Travel can certainly be an eye-opener.

Guo Guangchang, chairman of Fosun, China’s largest private conglomerate, had so much fun with his young family at the exclusive Atlantis resort in Dubai that he made a deal with developer Kerzner International to build his very own Atlantis resort back home in China – at a cost of $1.5bn. Read more

Dubai is hoping to double its number of tourists to 20m by the end of the decade as it attracts visitors from new markets and cultivates return guests to the seventh most popular travel destination in the world, write Simeon Kerr and Camilla Hall.

The city’s sun, sea and shopping offering has been central to Dubai’s economic revival since its debilitating debt crisis in 2009, helped by its haven status since the Arab revolutions. Read more

Standard Chartered is planning a further regional expansion as the bank seeks to build on growing trade between emerging markets, writes Simeon Kerr.

On the back of its 10th straight year of profits, the lender plans to boost its operations in the Middle East and Africa from its regional base in Dubai, which is rising as a financing hub for cross-border trade and investment. Read more

A surge of Gulf interest in Turkish property has prompted developer Agaoglu to open offices in Dubai to exploit these flourishing commercial links, writes Simeon Kerr.

Ali Agaoglu, president of the developer, says his company has since May sold about 1,300 Istanbul units to investors from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf states. Read more

Savvy as a market trader, Dubai knows when to strike bargain. With everyone mumbling that “Dubai is back” the government realised that now is the time to borrow.

So on Tuesday, the emirate sold $1.25bn in Islamic and conventional bonds, to appeal to a broad spectrum of buyers from the Middle East, Asia and beyond. Bankers said Dubai issued $750m of 10-year Islamic debt at 3.875 per cent and $500m of conventional 30-year notes at 5.375 per cent. Read more

Sentiment is everything in the Gulf. Without reliable or regular economic data, it is a struggle to know which direction the wind is blowing.

The underdevelopment and lack of disclosure of public statistics explains in part why so few saw Dubai’s 2009 debt crisis coming. And now, as some Gulf economies appear to be pulling out of the economic crisis, there are still few concrete numbers to prove it. Many are relying on improved sentiment…on anecdotes here and there. Read more

Dubai has been back for some time. The trade, tourism and transport that are the foundations of its economy have been thriving for a couple of years, bringing an air of optimism back to the city after its 2009 debt crisis.

But now, some fear, the old hubris is back, too. Read more

From plans for a giant replica of the Taj Mahal to the prospect of leafy suburbs being torn up to extend its creek, Dubai is rekindling projects that evoke memories of flamboyant pre-crisis times.

These projects, though eyecatching, are a concern for investors, who worry that the emirate might not have learnt from the bursting of its huge real estate bubble in 2008.

 Read more

Sorting out Dubai Group’s $10bn debts was always going to be tougher than most negotiations over the emirate’s total $110 debt pile.

Now RBS, Commerzbank, Standard Bank and Commercial International Bank of Egypt have raised the stakes by launching arbitration proceedings in London, calling for immediate repayment of their loans after claiming two years of talks had failed. Read more

The extraordinary case of Zack Shahin, the ex-chief executive of Deyaar, a Dubai-based real estate company, took a dark turn this week after reports emerged that he had fled to Yemen whilst on bail and was re-arrested there.

“Shahin is still being detained by the security apparatus,” a Yemeni security source, who declined to be named, told Reuters on Sunday. “We expect that the man will be deported to the UAE before the end of the week.”

Shahin was caught up in a corruption investigation that swept across state-linked developers and financial companies before Dubai’s real estate boom imploded. He was released from prison on July 12 after three years of inconclusive trials. Read more

When British businessman Safi Qurashi walked from jail in Dubai on Tuesday, he thought his family’s long campaign for his release was complete.

The 43-year-old real estate developer, jailed for seven years for bounced postdated cheques, had been released after a judicial review of his case prompted by a seven-week hunger strike.

Not so fast. Read more

Dubai has long been the regional hub for the oil-rich Gulf states, but the ambitious city state is never one to rest on its laurels.

The emirate has for years been touting itself as the central node for 2bn people, spanning the Middle East, the subcontinent, central Asia and eastern Africa. Now, even West Africa, an eight-hour flight away, is on its radar. Read more

Being a millionaire isn’t what it used to be. In their new 2012 Wealth Report, the property consultancy Knight Frank and Citi Private Bank take a look at the rise of the centa-millionaires of the world – those with at least $100m in liquid assets.

More centa-millionaires are popping up across the world thanks to what the report says is the central trend dominating the world’s prime property markets: “the relentless growth of ‘plutonomy’ economics, a phenomenon that sees the wealth of the richest 1 per cent  growing far quicker than that of the general population.” Read more

If there is silver lining to Dubai’s grand building dreams – which left the city-state with a debt mountain of $110bn when property prices crashed – it’s that it now has the region’s best infrastructure: gleaming airports, a brand-new metro and lavish hotels.

As the Gulf emirate rebounds from the slump, it is hoping these facilities will enhance its status as a commercial entrepot. In particular, it wants to persuade the world that it is the ideal location to host the World Expo in 2020, the five-yearly exposition of national pavilions, where states outline their vision for national development. Read more